Friday, 29 March 2013

The Rise of the Easter Bunny

I don't really get the whole Easter Bunny thing. It's not like Father Christmas, who was around when I was little. Or even the Tooth Fairy who is, of course, real because she wrote me little letters to say thank you for my teeth.

The Easter Bunny seems to have appeared out of nowhere and now suddenly, Easter is about a rabbit. I don't even know what the rabbit is supposed to do. I told all my children at work to go to bed nice and early so the Easter Bunny would come, and then wondered if I'd got a bit mixed up with Father Christmas. The rabbit seems to have swum across the ocean from it's American rabbit's burrow and skipped it's merry little way into our celebrations.

I don't mind the eggs. Of course, I love chocolate so that always helps. But aren't eggs from birds, not rabbits? Why would a rabbit hide an egg? And eggs, to me, symbolise the new life that has been given to us in Jesus. So, Easter eggs make sense. It's the rabbit that doesn't quite seem to fit.

It's not that I'm particularly against it, I just don't understand where it has come from and how on earth it fits with the Easter story.

And the Easter story is the world's greatest love story. A rescue of epic proportions. Judged as guilty, we take our place in front of the firing squad ready to face our death sentence only to be pushed aside at the last minute by the Judge himself. And BANG! The judge goes down. A judge who loves us so very much that he wants to rescue us from our inescapable punishment. He wants to know us, to give us new life and a certain hope. He wants us to live with the power that his resurrection showed. He wants to give us more than we could possibly imagine. He wants to give us a life that is fuller and more exciting than we could ever dream. He wants to walk with us through the tough times and give us freedom from our pasts. He wants to show us miracles. He wants to use us to bring justice in the world. He wants us to adventure with him.

Surely that is far more of a thrilling story than a rabbit who hides eggs. But maybe that's just me.

Saturday, 23 March 2013


Rest. I know, I've banged on about this one before but I actually feel quite strongly about it. (You must be surprised by that because it is, of course, rare that I feel strongly about anything...).

We were designed to rest. We were made to have a day off each week. Not a day off each year or even each month. Not just an evening off, but a whole day.

In our busy culture today, rest is frowned upon. If you take a day off, you will get behind on your work. You might not get the promotion or the sale. You might not have a clean house for your visitors the next day. Rest is equated with laziness. I find myself slipping into this so easily. The "I just need to...." feeling.

This is a lie of our society. Not only is rest vital to our sense of well-being and stress levels, if we don't take the day to rest then we are actually telling God that we don't think much of His design. "Sorry God, I know you wanted me to rest, but actually I don't need to do it your way. My way is much better." The sweet smelling whiff of pride surrounds this sentiment. But as we know, pride comes before a fall and it won't be long before our exhausted bodies and minds can't take any more.

I know it's hard to rest with children in the family, and I know that some jobs are more demanding than others but God made the whole world and rested, so I'm guessing that somehow we can find ways to do it too. We also need to model it to our children because otherwise our work-a-holic generation is going to pass down a slimy, sneaking lie that will destroy our kids.

Of course, rest will look different for each of us. My idea of resting is to spend time having fun with my boys without thinking about work, writing, cleaning, cooking or even, dare I say it, church things.

So, come on. Don't believe the lie that we have to just keep going and going. We don't and we can't. Get some rest today and refresh yourselves for the week ahead.

Monday, 18 March 2013


I thought my extrovert years were over. The demands of looking after my energetic boys often leave me with nothing else to give. Night's out are enjoyed, but always with the hovering shadow of 'will I sleep tonight and if I do, what ridiculous time will I be woken in the morning?'

So, when my lovely friend invited us to her 40th birthday party (I know, I don't think I'm old enough to have 40 year old friends either) complete with disco, I was a little hesitant. Don't get me wrong - I wanted to go, I just didn't want the repercussions of the late night. And on the day in question I was tired. We'd had a very busy day and I wasn't sure I'd last the evening out without nodding off in the corner.

But I made the decision to make the most of it and enjoy myself. And I really did. Letting my hair down (quite literally and embarrassingly to rock it out) for the first time in a very long time, I danced the night away with some of my best friends. And it made me realise I'd forgotten how to have fun. I get so bogged down in the small details of every day life - who needs wellies for school, which time slot we need for parents evening, what time the boy's swimming lessons are, how am I going to get the boys to school when I have to work and Jared is away etc etc, that sometimes I forget about having fun.

Oh yes, I have fun with the boys. We laugh a lot, play games, make up jokes and play tricks on each other. But it's not always quite the kind of fun I would choose, and I am still on my guard for arguments, bad moods or over the top rude jokes. I can't let my hair down completely. I don't have fun in the way I would choose.

And I also realised that not only had I forgotten how to have fun, but sometimes (not always, but definitely sometimes) I forget about being thankful. I look down at the circumstances of my busy life, instead of looking up and realising all the awesome things I have to be thankful for.

So, I have compiled a thank you list.

1. I am thankful that, even though they often annoy me and exhaust me, I have 3 healthy boys.
2. I am thankful that this morning, the sun shone and I could hang my washing on the line.
3. I am thankful that I had frozen chips and fish fingers in the freezer for tonight's tea.
4. I am glad to have good friends who love me as I am (even if they laugh at me a little bit when I get a bit ranty).
5. I am grateful for a job which allows me to be there for my boys.
6. I am thankful for a husband who seems to adore me, even first thing in the morning before I've cleaned my teeth!
7. I am thankful that today when the food shop was delivered, Toby and Max put it all away for me in the right places.
8. I am grateful for the beauty that is found in creation, especially the tiny, hidden treasures like frost-covered spider's webs.
9. I am glad that my adoring husband is away tonight and I get to stretch out right across the bed.
10. I am thankful that, even though I shout at them sometimes and make loads and loads of mistakes, my boys seem to be growing up into sensitive, caring, courageous young men.

What's on your list? What have you forgotten to do in the busy-ness of life?

Friday, 15 March 2013

Pre-Teen Angst

I'm not sure that we had 'pre-teens' when I was their age. Maybe we did and I just didn't notice. I was too busy playing schools and travel agents with my sister.

But we certainly have them now. The 'not-quite-yet-but-would-like-to-try-it-out' tweenagers. They watch teenagers and try to be like them, copying the words they say and trying out the clothes they wear. They need a little bit more freedom. They don't want to be treated like little children anymore, but they're certainly not old enough to be treated like teens. And the hormones seem to be kicking in too.

This week we have experienced a taste of possible things to come. Arguments, mood swings, sulking, being their 'enemy'. But I don't want my boy's teenage years to consist of those apparent inevitabilities. I know plenty of teenagers who have great relationships with their parents, and I refuse to give up my boys to the grumpy monosyllabic expectations of teenage boys. Parents of teens may smile at my naivety, but I don't think this is inevitable and certainly isn't necessary.

The problem is, I don't know how to make this happen. We've never done this before. Give me toddler tantrums and I can keep calm in the face of a wild, screaming two year old (and believe me, I had some wild ones). Give me children who refuse to eat their tea or go to bed. Give me a child who won't put his shoes on for school. Let me plan a super-hero party. I can do those ones. I've been there and bought a shop full of t-shirts. But these new battles? I am as clueless as a new mother bringing her baby home for the first time.

So, for those of you wise parents of teenagers, I need some tips. What do we need to know before we hit those years? How can we prepare? What can we do to keep a good relationship going? How can we carry on having fun and laughing together? How do we stem the tide of grunts and isolation from the rest of the family? Or am I living in a dreamworld? Perhaps this blog will go down in history for me, like my pregnant-for-the-first-time self telling the world that I wouldn't be using dummies, only to plug the screaming mouth within 2 days of birth.....

Wednesday, 13 March 2013


It seems that we are beginning a new phase of Toby's life which is based on academic achievement and striving. I watch my teenage friends barely standing up under the pressure of school's demands and wonder how my boy is going to cope.

Toby is a bright boy, there's no denying it. Not only is he bright, but he's also driven by achievement. There is nothing wrong with this if it motivates him to succeed in school, and we want to encourage him to always do his best and not hold him back. But out job is not only to see that he achieves in school. Our job is to ensure that he is well rounded, has good character and knows where his identity lies.

All too often I see, particularly teenagers but adults too, placing their identity in the things they have achieved in life. If they will pass these exams then they will have an important status or job. If they work a bit harder they'll be moved to the top set and will become one of the elite. If they achieve, they can earn more money. If they get the right grades, they can accept themselves and love themselves. What if they fail? Self-harm amongst teenagers is on the increase and this, I believe, is partly to do with the pressure of never being good enough.

But our identity isn't in our achievements. Our identity is in who we were made to be. Our job as parents is to teach our children where their security is. We are loved, whatever we do or don't achieve. We were named and known about before the world was even made. (I know this won't be to everyone's taste, but I'm not going to apologise). We are secure in the arms of our Father in heaven, who has good plans for us. If our identity is wrapped up in academic or career achievements, we can easily lose sight of these truths.

And God has a habit of choosing those people whom nobody else would choose. Moses was a murderer. David was a murderer and an adulterer. Abraham was very, very old. Jeremiah was very, very young. Joshua was nervous and afraid. Ruth wasn't of the right nationality. Hosea married a prostitute. Paul killed christians. The list is endless. But what God saw in these people was a heart that loved him, despite their failures, and trusted him. They placed their identity and security in the One who said "I choose you".

I'm not anti-achievement. I can't be when I have a son who seems to fly through school. I want him to do his best. But that's not the be-all and end-all in life. What I want most for my boy is that he loves, serves and follows the One who has chosen him. I want him to understand how deeply he is loved and cherished. I want him to know that, even if he fails in the world's eyes, the truths that God says about him will never change. I want him to grow up to be a man of courage, full of fun and adventure but who unswervingly follows the call of his God.

Our job as parents of our children encompasses so much more than encouraging academic achievement, however important that is. Our role is to teach them who they are, and who they can be.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

A Child's Love

Mothers Day is always so funny. They try so very hard to be loving and kind, and not to fight with each other for a whole day (this one is impossible). What warms my heart the most though, is the way they show me their love.

Forget about extravagant bouquets of flowers and expensive chocolates and perfumes. I'm not interested in them anyway (which is a good job, really). The things I love are the homemade presents and cards. The words written in neatest handwriting with the funny spelling mistakes and the heartfelt half hugs (Max has perfected the art of hugging without using his arms, but it takes a lot of courage for him to hug me so they are always special, even without arms) are the precious things that I will remember.

My boys show their love by sharing with me the things that are important to them, which is why when they took me to KFC for lunch, I pretended to be very pleased. When Max gave me a £1 coin taped to a piece of paper wrapped up in another piece of paper, I smiled with gratitude. When Jonah drew a picture of me, complete with flicking out hair, I hugged him. When Max was excited for me that it was snowing on Mothers Day, I was excited with him (even though I hate the snow). But when Toby enthusiastically suggested making me a 'Mothers Day volcano' in the garden complete with coke bottle and mints, I had to explain that it might not be my idea of the best present.

When we can realise that our children show their love to us in these ways then the scribbled pictures, the drooping daisies from the garden and the dinosaurs wrapped in scrunched up paper surrounded by sticky tape take on a whole new meaning. They might never say the words "I love you" but they are showing us their love by sharing with us the things they love. It is a wonderful feeling. And one day the gifts of stones, shells, pirate patches and elastic bands will cease. I want to enjoy them while I still have them.

Happy Mothers Day to all those mums out there. You work hard and sacrificially, but it is all worth it. You are doing a job that no-one else has been entrusted with - raising your children. Enjoy their love today.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Baker Boyz

My boys take after their Dad in so many aspects. But their entrepreneurial spirit is most definitely one of the strongest. Constantly dreaming up new plans, we have conversation after conversation about the next invention or the next business plan that will take the world by storm. Mostly, I just live with it. I'm used to the dreaming now, and I think dreaming is a good thing if accompanied by action.

For months they have been trying to think up ways of earning extra money. Toby and Max are both saving up for larger, expensive items which will take a very long time to save for on the meagre pocket money rations given by us measly parents. The latest idea is probably one of their better ones and, dare I say it, it might even work for them.

Encouraged by their love of baking (and actually, they are quite good at it), they have decided to make cookies and sell them. They have had a business meeting and worked out all the costs involved, which they will give to me out of their earnings. They have come up with a name for their business too. Baker Boyz have today had their first order from a local cafe. The cafe owner was rather skeptical, I'll admit, but was persuaded by my salesman of a husband (he has SO many talents, that man) to give it a try. I think the fact that they are children has helped their cause. So, the boys will be making cookies for the cafe to try and sell. The cafe will give the boys 50p for each biscuit sold. If they go down well, they will have repeat orders. Not bad, for a first business attempt.

My role in it all will be making sure they don't fight and argue while baking, and ensuring that they clean up my kitchen afterwards. I think the cleaning up will be harder than the selling....

I'll keep you posted on their progess but if anyone wants any cookies, you know where to find us!

Sunday, 3 March 2013


When the boys were little we used to watch a programme which had a little song that went like this:

"What's going to work? Teamwork!"

We used to sing this song around the house a lot. I remember their cute little voices cheerfully singing about teamwork.

And then teamwork stopped working. It became competition. Who can do the best, be the best make the best, finish first? The important things in life were about 'me' and not about 'us'.

Slowly, slowly, we are bringing them back round to the idea of teamwork. It comes as a surprise to their inflated testosterone fuelled egos, but sometimes they can't actually complete something by themselves. Sometimes they need help from someone else. We are trying to teach that to ask for help shows strength and wisdom, not weakness.

This morning, teamwork was in full swing while Toby and Max made scones together. When they asked if they could bake, I sighed and desperately tried to find a reason to say no. Unfortunately I couldn't think of one. The deal was they had to work together as a team, and clear up all the mess afterwards. And they succeeded. They'd never made scones before and followed the recipe on the iPad (you've got to get a screen in there somewhere). I did not help at all. They spoke kindly to one another and even offered to do the washing up. I was amazed. Here is the result of their teamwork, which we will be enjoying after our lunch.

Friday, 1 March 2013

A Mother's Week

1. One boy (who shall remain nameless) came into the kitchen while I was chopping the carrots wearing only his boxer shorts, to show me that his shorts had a hole through which he could wee.

2. Two boys (also remaining nameless) spent a good half hour inspecting each other's muscles, prodding, poking and pulling them taut in order to look more muscly.

3. One little boy snuggled on my lap without realising it (normally he snuggles with Dad and not me) so I could snuffle my nose right in and breathe in his sweetly smelling, sweat scented hair. Only a mother could love this smell.

4. Three boys have shown their caring, thoughtful side and helped to look after me while I've been ill by making me cups of tea, stroking my sore head and even attempting to play quietly. One even made this remark:"I don't know how you keep doing everything when you are poorly, Mum. When I'm poorly I can't move off the sofa."

5. One boy, on discovering some changes to his body (whilst inspecting the muscles with his brother), jumped up and down shouting 'PUBERTY! PUBERTY!'. I captured the moment in my head, ready to bring out in about five year's time.

6. One boy ate fish pie with relish and enjoyment, thinking it was chicken.

7. On going in to one boy's bedroom to check on him at night, I discovered him fast asleep and naked on the floor. I covered him up and left him there.

8. One boy willingly gave me a hug from the front (rather than his usual reluctant 'standing with his back to me' hug) and then told me that he doesn't understand how my boobs don't get in the way of everything.

9. Three boys have played with marbles. All week. Without fighting. Miracles do happen.

10. One boy has told us about the girl he is going to marry, another girl who is his girlfriend, and a boy who is his boyfriend.

11. One boy wore the same socks and possibly pants for two days in a row. I noticed, but said nothing.

12. One boy carried a stick home from school and dropped it down a drain. I heard myself sincerely telling him it was a shame he'd dropped it because it was a nice stick. A nice stick? How did I come to label sticks as 'nice'?